Crossing the line

Brian Golden

Anyone who’s ever been to (or been associated with, for that matter) a school district board of education meeting is sure to have seen their fair share of bickering, arguing, finger-pointing and – at times – near-violence, yet last night’s Norwich City School District BOE meeting … well … ended on an extremely sour note.

And that’s putting it mildly, I’m afraid.

Things began normal enough, with the typical adoption of the minutes, written communications and – as found in today’s Evening Sun – presentation of discussion items (students-academics-finances). And then, as is almost always the case, the drama.

Known, of course, as public comment.

Now, let me get this straight first, I have no problem whatsoever with people signing up, addressing the board and stating their opinion, no matter how misguided I may find that opinion to be. It’s their right as a parent, friend, sibling, teacher, former educator or even taxpaying citizen. Yet some people (and you all know who they are) have a tendency to take things a bit too far. Which was, unfortunately, the case at last night’s meeting.

As with most things in life, there are rules when it comes to addressing the board of education. Personally, I don’t find these rules to be all that difficult to understand and – no matter one’s frustration level – it’s common sense to follow them … even if you disagree with what they entail.

Last night, however, a regular attendee at the Norwich BOE meeting went far beyond what should and shouldn’t be said, regardless of one’s feelings toward the district’s administration or other employees. In point of fact … comparing the Norwich district’s many controversies (whether those falsely perceived, imagined or – once in awhile – actually pertinent) with the current Penn State scandal was just about the sickest, most disrespectful, thoughtless and downright idiotic thing I’ve ever heard, and a local businessman – a regular at Norwich BOE meetings – should apologize immediately to the various board members, those in attendance and each and every member of the administration present for ever doing so.

As I heard it said (and I do take notes during these meetings), “Norwich is Penn State on steroids.”

I’m not one to point fingers, at least not while I’m “on the job,” so to speak, yet I honestly feel that – in this instance – something needed to be said. There’s right and there’s wrong and – at times – it’s a person’s responsibility to call it out as they see it. And I must say I was extremely disappointed.

Following the mayhem, shouting and gavel-banging that ensued, I even heard one board member say that – maybe – it’s time this individual not be allowed to speak during public comment. Now, I’m not a big fan of censorship, but statements such as his serve no purpose at all, except to inflame and stir up trouble. There’s no need for it, particularly in light of the many problems the district is already facing and – again – I think an apology to all is in order. Until then, I’d have to agree that some individuals, due to their continued desire to incite discord, should probably call it a day until they’ve had some time to think their actions over.

And that’s not to say I don’t have my own issues with some of the district’s decisions, because I do. Sometimes, though, you have to know when it’s OK to draw the line … and when it’s not OK to cross it.